# 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

## byDragonatrix

### Part 14: Large hospital room 2

[Music: Tinderbox]

Well, perhaps that's a bit of a harsh word, but yes. You've all figured it out by now, haven't you? We can't all make it through those doors. If we split into 2 teams, of 4 and 3 people respectively, then 3 people will be left behind. If we split into 2 teams, of 5 and 2 people respectively, then 2 people will be left behind. But, if we split into 2 groups of 3, and leave 1 person out, then only 1 person will be left behind.

There's easily dozens upon dozens of possible groups of 4/3. I'm sure at least one of them will work, right?

Junpei wasn't quite sure that was true.

Wait a minute.
?
2 people get left behind if we split into 5 and 2. And 1 person is left behind if we split into 3, 3, and 1. I got that part. You can't go through the numbered doors with any less than 3 people. But if we split into 4 and 3, then why do 3 people have to be left behind?
Just run the numbers. Let's say we go through door [7] with (1456). Who's left over?
That would be (378).
What's the digital root for that?

Exactly. But door [9] isn't here, right? That means (378) won't be going anywhere. That was just an example, of course. There are a lot of different combinations, but the result will always be the same. It doesn't matter which 4 it is--the 3 that are left over can't go through any of the doors. Go ahead and calculate it, if you have the time. You'll see.
...
Anyway, that's how it is. Now, if we can get back to my proposal... We only have to sacrifice 1 person if we split into 3, 3, and 1.

When Seven spoke, his voice was strained.

Yes, we do. Given our circumstances, it's logically and morally the best solution. If the other 6 are to survive, then 1 person has to sacrifice themselves.
No! That's too cruel!
To...to just sacrifice someone like that...
Then what's your plan?! Maybe we should sacrifice 2 people, instead of just 1!
That's not what I meant!

I told you, that's impossible! Wake up!
Whoa, whoa, calm down you two.

Santa stepped between Lotus and June.

Look, what Lotus is trying to say is that you should aim to bring the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest amount of people, right?

And for that reason, I think the only fair way to decide who'll be sacrificed is through a vote. What do you think?
No, that's terrible.
I'm not asking you! Shut up!
Me? Well...I agree, I guess.
All right, that's 1 vote for. Counting mine, that's 2. Seven?
I can't say I agree with you, but... we don't exactly have a choice. If we don't do somethin', we're all gonna die.
Glad to see you get it. If I can get 1 more vote, then it's decided. What about you, Clover?

Your brother has to be behind one of the numbered doors. We searched everywhere, but we didn't find him. Doesn't that mean he has to have gone through one of them somehow?

Clover slowly lifted her face.

Let's go look for him together, okay?

You...agree with me, right?

Clover nodded once.

*Giggle* The motion carries.

Lotus spun around, and walked toward Junpei.

Now, let's start a vote to--
That won't be necessary.

Ace had barely spoken for Lotus's entire speech, and everyone jumped a little.

6 pairs of eyes turned to look at him.

He didn't seem to notice, or even care.

That should solve our problem, yes?
!
!
!
!
A-Ace! What are you saying?! No, you can't do that! That won't solve anything!

June's voice shook, and she looked around desperately for someone to agree with her.

Ace simply looked at her.

June, I'm afraid you may have misunderstood me.

...Huh?
I trust you, each and every one of you. I believe you'll come back for me.
Whoa whoa whoa, there's optimistic and then there's just nuts. Those doors only go 1 way--you go in, you don't come out. If we go through 'em--
You won't be able to return, correct?
Yeah.

What...?
Please, I beg you, once you've escaped, come back and rescue me. Ideally within the time limit Zero has given us.

Finally, Junpei could hold his tongue no longer.

We've only got 5 hours left. We don't even know where the hell we are. How on Earth are we gonna find someone to come and rescue you?!
Then perhaps you would prefer to stay, instead of me? Perhaps you would be willing to leave June behind?

Ace's voice was dignified, and without a hint of cruelty or malice. Junpei had no rebuttal.

You see? There's no other choice. Then I see we've come to our conclusion. Go on. Don't worry yourselves about me. Go, quickly!

Lotus's attitude, however, was different from the others.

Good. Let's accept his kind offer, then.

She smiled, her eyes bright. Ace answered with a smile of his own.

Good. I think this is the best for me. Perhaps I'll be able to take a nap.

As he spoke, Ace lowered himself down to the floor next to one of the beds.

[Music: Silence]

From somewhere deep in the ship, Junpei suddenly heard the screeching of metal on metal. It was almost as if the ship were screaming.

Would it really hold until their time limit was up? Already, D Deck was flooded...

In the sudden silence, the only sound was the sad metal wail of the ship.

Unsurprisingly, it was Lotus who spoke first.

Well, what are you waiting for?

As if a spell had been broken, the others all began to talk at once.

You're right. We should get goin'. That's all we can do right now.
Seven...
Seriously. Honestly, I was getting kinda sick of listening to you guys talk.
You too, Santa...?
I...I have to find my brother...

There has to be a way to get everyone out! There has to be! R-Right, Jumpy?! Say something!

Fine! Forget about it! I'll figure it out on my own!

She spun around, and ran toward Ace.

C'mon, Ace, please stand up! You can't give up yet! We just have to sit down together and think about this! We'll figure out a way that we can all get out of here!

Then it happened.

Ace fell forward.

He slumped over onto the wooden floor, his body folded in half like a boxer out cold.

Ace!

June cried out and dropped to her knees beside him. She put her arm around his neck and did her best to lift him up.

She shook him, frantically.

His eyes fluttered open.

His voice was weak, and slightly slurred.

How are you...fine?
This...

He held out his left arm, and slowly opened his hand...

In it was a syringe, and a small vial. The vial was empty.

It had only recently been emptied--a few drops clung to the sides.

Did...did you use this?!
Yes... It's just...anaesthetic... I'll be...fine...
Anaesthetic?
I found it...earlier... While we were searching the...hospital rooms...

Ha... I didn't think I'd be...using it on...myself...
Why did you do this...?
Didn't I...tell you? I'd like to take a...nap... I really am...very tired...

Junpei knew that wasn't why he'd done it.

Ace...
Hm...? Is there something you want to...say? I'd just like to sleep...a little... Could you...keep it down...?
No! Don't, Ace! Don't fall asleep!
Ah...you feel...warm... So...comfortable...

Ace's eyelids drooped further and further.

Almost as though he were...dying.

Ace! Ace!

He lifted Ace up off the floor, and laid him on the bed he'd been leaning against.

[Music: Riddle and Puzzle]

When Junpei turned around, Lotus gave him a look of pity.

Well, we really don't have a choice now.

...Right?

She wasn't feeling any remorse, Junpei was sure of that. Still, he held no grounds upon which to oppose her.

It felt wrong, but he had to agree.

Then suddenly, Santa spoke.

Yeah, but we're not done choosing yet, are we?
Huh? What do you mean?

Ah, yes. Yes, that's true.
Well, enough of this screwin' around. Let's decide. You first Lotus. Which door do you want?

It's the same number as my bracelet number.
Got it. You're [8]. You're next, Seven. Which one do you want?

What?! What did you just say!?

Her face distorted by rage, Lotus took a step toward Seven.

He threw up his hands, and made a face like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Ugh! You're going to get it next time!

She shot him a glare that would have melted steel, then turned and stalked off.

All right, who's next...

Santa's gaze moved across the 3 people left. Finally, they stopped on Junpei.

Junpei, which door do you want?

At last...